tv [untitled] February 22, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EST
so it was neat to watch other people do this thing that we had just done. and the mission started off with a real bang, literally. shortly after lift-off, the spacecraft was hit by a couple bolts of lightning and the navigation system, the platform had started tumbling, the electrical system had dropped offline. they didn't -- mission control literally made no sense. and the young controller, john aaron became a legend with the call that he made. jerry griffin was flight director. john aaron was just a few second of reflection calls up jerry griffin and says, flight have the crew take sce to ox. this was a recommendation no flight director had ever heard, no crew had ever heard, no c cap com had ever heard.
jerry said sce to ox? all with a question marks behind them. we voice this up to the crew. pete conrad in the voice tapes that we got after the mission on-board is talking to his crew members. he says, sce to ox? what the hell is that? we repeat this statement one more. well al bean -- each one of the crew members in the spacecraft had a portion of the command module that they were responsible for. and down in the fourth switch in on the lower edge of the main display panel is a switch which is signal conditioning equipment power normal auxillary. so he flips this thing down to auxiliary. all of a sudden the data is restored properly in mission control. now the controllers can get back to work. well, what we had is we had a two-minute window of opportunity, because the concern at that time was, whatever happened on-board the spacecraft may have closed the reactant valve to the fuel cells.
if this occurs the fuel cells will starve from oxygen and hydrogen in about two minutes and you can't restart them so it was extremely important to get data back and figure out what happened on-board the spacecraft real quickly. john aaron was the, again, one of these 26-year-olders in mission control. and he proceeded to talk the crew through bringing the fuel cells back online, and then once is they had gotten power restored normally onboard the spacecraft, then it was a question of another controller, buck willaby trying to establish what to do with this tumbling navigation platform, should they pull the circuit breakers, what should they do? but the bottom line is by the time that the crew got to orbit we had restored majority of the spacecraft's system and jerry griffin, in a very gutsy move, and with the help of his leadership, made the decision go to the moon. that day i was sitting in
mission control and sig scholberg, the deputy, was very concerned about the impact of the spacecraft by this lightning strike, as was kraft. schulberg went down to the trench and started polling these controllers saying hey, whatever happened on the spacecraft, if you don't have the confidence to send it out to the moon, i'll support that decision. i have a picture of chris kraft leaning over the console talking to jerry griffin giving him exactly the same coaching. and it was we don't have to go to the moon today, young man. and this immediately relieved the political pressure to achieve the missions to the point where this team had only the technical issues to work. and in the business of mission control, business of spaceflight, what you got to do is you have to make your decisions based on the technical data and that's this team's job to do. and it is up to the people that sit in the consoles behind the
flight director to take the political heat from whatever decision had to be made. and this is the kind of inspired leadership that we had in the program that was capable of stepping up to the plate and buffering the outside world from the technical decisions these guys had to make. >> i guess, in part, that's because people like kraft had the same experiences that you had, wouldn't you say? as a former flight director, he knew? >> i think kraft's name, christopher columbus, was
entirely appropriate for this guy, because he was the pier in in mission control. he launched each one of the mercury missions. but most important he was the mentor, the teacher, the tutor for this first generation of young people who became known as mission controllers. he set the mold for everything that would be done thereafter and in particular, he set the mold for the flight director and the flight director being able to take any action necessary for cruise safety and mission success. chris had been there, he had been there, done that. the beauty of it was, even though he physically left the console, he knew what these guys down here were doing, and he knew his job now was to give them the confidence to make the technical decisions and he was going to broker whatever political fallout might occur back there. spectacular man. >> he was the interface between top-level management and politics. >> yeah. i found this out in later years. because when kraft moved up to center director, i became the flight operations director, the broker, external interface for the sky lab and the shuttle program. so i had an opportunity to feel this political heat that comes down when somebody might want to land a shuttle down at the cape even though we don't think it should be landed at the cape with a fuel cell down or we made
a call to a launch when maybe all the mission roles weren't satisfied or we used more propellant than we should have pursuing our mission objective. i managed to spend some time up at headquarters explaining the control team's decisions. >> and you actually walked in kraft's shoes. well, getting back, however, to the fundamentals of the earlier flights -- because we're coming up on the one that really made you famous, most of all. even more than the lunar landing which you bossed. nonetheless, "apollo 13" was the story of gene kranz as much as it was jim la lune, fred
haise -- >> 13. 13 was again a mission where the basic maturity of this team continued to i mean just spread forth in almost a magnificent fashion. we had made the decision, missions earlier, that we would always have four mission control teams in place during the course of a mission. and this gave us several advantages because quite frequently the mission events don't fit neatly into eight-hour shifts. so a team might have to do what we call a whifferdill, show up a shift early or show up a shift late. have the four teams in position made that transition much easier, about it also was designated as a crisis team, that if we had any problems dur -- during the course of a mission, major problems, this team would try to find some way to work itself offline and the remaining three teams would have the -- would continue to work eight-hour shifts throughout the mission, whatever it turn out to be. my team was designated as lead team and we were responsible -- our principle responsibilities during the mission, we were going to be doing the lunar orbit insertion and also the ascent from the moon and that's
what we had been trained to do. during the course of a mission, it changed dramatically. the launch was normal and our crew members were ken mattingly, fred hayes, and mattingly and hayes were the experts in the lou mar module they were scheduled to descend to the surface of the moon. ken mattingly was a command module pilot but very late in the mission sequence he had been exposed to measles and he was replaced by jack swigert, a mae member of the back-up crew. we trained with back-up crews so we had all the confidence we needed in jack so it was a question of getting a few extra training runs under his belt with the mission controllers, getting tuned up again and then getting him in to the mission assignment. the mission had been going very well.
we had had a minor problem. we lost an engine on the second stage of powered flight. but mission control provided the crew the new engine shut-down times, remaining engines kept working like a champ and they got to orbit. made the decision to inject to the moon. the injection went normal. transposition, docking, extraction went by the numbers. and as soon as that first sequence of mission events had been accomplished, my team pick up the console and we were following in the shift rotation where we would now take a look over the command service modules and we didn't see anything of cig tans in our first shift
earlier in the shift, we had had a anomaly, a problem with a communications antenna that did not seem to work properly and we were in the process of troubleshooting this and we came to no answer and i hate to hanover incomplete problems to a next shift. the nature of the problem was, the antenna would not track the
earth's signal properly. then all of a sudden after troubleshooting for about 20 minutes, all of a sudden it started tracking and we never figured out what caused this. in a similar fashion we had my e-com had a series of anomalies associated with tank pressures where they'd gone through some very rapid cycling in there and the tank pressure had been reading -- which is reading -- quantity -- reading 87% at that time all after sudden failed and started reading 100%. so we'd had a series of funnies that we had to close out during the course of the shift and we were down to the final entry and the cryogenics, the fuels we use job board the spacecraft are oxygen and hydrogen, it is a super dense, super cold liquid at launch at high news 300 degrees to minus 400 degrees packed in vacuum tanks. but by the time you're two days into the mission you've used some of these resources and these consumables have turned into a very thick soupy fog or vapor in the tank. like fog on earth, it tends to stratify or develop in layers. so inside the tanks we have some fans we turn on to stir up this mixture and make it uniform so we can measure it. then we use some heaters to raise the pressure for the sleep period. well, we had asked the crew to do this. in the meantime, the next control team was reporting in for shift handover so the noise level in the room was building up and their flight director was the leader of the black team and we use colors to identify those teams, was sitting next to me at the console, reading my flight director's log. and we advised the crew that we wanted a cryo stern. jack swigert acknowledged our request and he looked behind him and coming through the tunnel from the lunar module is fred hayes my e com had now switched his attention to the current measurements had he, electrical current measurements, and swigert started the cryo and he was now taking a look at computing the time from the time's point, et cetera, et
cetera. all of a sudden i get a series of calls from my controller. my first one is flight, we've had a computer restart. second controller says, antenna switch. third controller says main bus interval. and from the spacecraft i hear, hey houston, we've had a problem. swigert called it. then there was a pause for about five seconds. then lovell comes on-board, hey, houston, we got a problem. within mission control, literally nothing made sense in those first few second because the controller's data had gone static briefly and then when it was restored many of the parameters just didn't indicate anything that we had ever seen before. down in the propulsion area, my controllers all of a sudden saw a lot of jet activities. jets were firing. we then see lovell -- this is all happening in seconds.
we then see lovell take control of the spacecraft and fly into an attitude so he can keep xun kating with us. then for about 60 seconds the calls kept coming in but they literally made no sense, made no pattern, right on down the line, until finally the training that's given the controllers kicked in and very meticulously they started making the calls that were relayed up by cap com at that time, and his calls very gradually started restoring some of the functions that appeared to be lost on the spacecraft. i had written the time of this event, 55:55:04 and i called over my communications guy and say, can you see if you can take a look at your data and see if
anything else happened at the time of that event. he comes back and he says, flight, that's when we also saw this antenna beam switch. went down started a false track thinking, hey, we had had an antenna problem, a glitch in the antenna, some kind of electrical short-circuit similar to the one we'd experienced earlier in that shift and shortly we had resolved the problem and would be back on track to the moon. in the meantime, however, most of the problems had been resolved. those that remain all focus on the single controller by the name of cy. cy has the system this you need to stay alive in space. power, pressure, he's got electrical, he's got heat, he's got water. basically everything you need to stay alive and none of the data cy has seen from his standpoint is believable. very quickly it looks like we've lost one of our fuel cells and possibly a second one.
cryo tank two, oxygen tank two is reading zero. quantity where previously had been reading 100% quantity, temperatures instead of being minus 300-so degrees fahrenheit are now at a plus-17 degrees. i mean that data doesn't make sense. another tank is starting to decrease in pressure. he's trying to put all these pieces together in the back room. in the meantime a new problem is occurring because we're now approaching what we call gimbal lock. whatever is happening is pushing the spacecraft alone. some of the valves had been shocked close so we have to re-open the valves so the crew has the ability to control the spacecraft altitude. it is tough for me to work with the controllers because interspersed with that we get a call and have to interrupt the thought process and it has to be voiced up to the crew. and for probably about 60 to 90 seconds it's literally chaos in
this place. and then it is amazing how this whole thing starts to take focus. we still don't have the slightest clue what's going on. well, this continues in an unresolved fashion until my cap com comes to me and he says, flight, is there anything that we can do, is there anything that makes sense, is there anything they can trust. and my cap com is sorting acting as my conscience right now because we've been sort of scatter shooting in here. i call the control team up -- and this occurs just about the time the crew's calling down. we realized -- the crew used terms like they've had some kind of a jolt or some kind of a shock. and all of a sudden i start, instead of listening to every controller call and relaying it up, i start being much more select nif this process because i'm starting to get the feeling
that this isn't a communications glitch. i'm about five minutes into this problem right now. it is something else. we don't understand it. so i proceed very meticulously. i call the controllers up to tell them, you guys, quit guessing. let's start working this problem. then i used some words that sort of surprised me after the fact. i say we got a good main bus eight. don't do anything to screw it up and the lunar module is attached and we can use that as a lifeboat if we need to. now get me some back-up people in here and get me more communicating resources. i had said these words but then i immediately went back to tracking this thing and it took about 20 minutes and it was really frustrating because the situation is becoming more and more and more and more desperate. we're still not at the bottom because now it looks like this oxygen tank is shot. the second oxygen tank, oxygen tank one, is now continuing to decrease. two of our fuel cells are
offline and these are our principal power generation systems that we use. lieberman comes to me and he says, hey, flight, i want to shut down fuel cells one and three. i say, cy, let's think about this. he says, no, flight, i think that's the only thing that's going to stop the leaks. then i go back to him the third time and i say, cy -- he said, yeah, flight, it's time for our final option. and very reluctantly i agree to advise the crew that we're going to shut down fuel cells one and three and about this time kraft has come in. we -- the crew then also realize, they feel very uncomfortable about shutting down these fuel cells. we go through a dialogue that lasts several minutes with the crew until very reluctantly they agree to shut these fuel cells down. and i think this is probably the point in the mission where everybody is realizing that we've now moved into a survival mode.
because with 2 of the 3 fuel cells shut down we're not going to the moon anymore, we're just going to be damn lucky to get home. kraft had come in, he was home showering. i had had lenny give him a call and then chris comes in, it's probably the only vernacular i've ever used that i'd probably use again, i said chris, we're in deep shit. i think that sort of expressed it and chruggeenin. and again, kraft's business -- his experience in the flight control business and as flight director, he got back up to console. he didn't bother bothering me. he was trying to let me extricate myself from whatever problems were occurring in here. by this time, a call came down indicating they're venting something and we came to the conclusion we had some type of explosion on-board the spacecraft and our job now is to start an orderly evacuation from the command module into the
lunar module. at the same time, i'm faced with a series of decisions that are all irreversible. at the time the explosion occurred, we're about 200,000 miles from earth, about 50,000 miles from the surface of the moon. we're entering the phase of the mission we use the term entering the lunar sphere of influence. this is where the moon's gravity is becoming much stronger than the earth's gravity and during this period for a very short time, you have two abort options. one which will take you around the north side of the moon and one which will take you all the way around the moon. well, lenny has gone down to the trench, and he's brought me up a list of all of the options that we've got. if i would execute what we call a direct abort, in the next two hours we could be home in about
32 hours. but we would have to do two things. we'd have to jettison the lunar module which i'm thinking of using as a lifeboat, and we'd have to use the main engine and we still have no clue what happened on-board the spacecraft. the other option we got to go around the moon and it is going to take about five days but i only got two days of electrical power. so we're now at the point of making the decision, which path are we going to take. my gut feeling -- and that's all i got -- says don't use the main engine and don't jettison the lunar module. that's all i got is a gut feeling. it's based -- i don't know -- in the flight control business, the flight director business one develop some street smarts and i think every controller has felt this at been time or another and i talk briefly to lenny and he's got this same feeling. meantime my trajectory people are scared out of their wits that we're going to execute this abort, direct abort, because it's very late in the trajectory to make this kind of a computation and swinging this mission around the front side of the moon is going to be very risky job.
in the meantime, my systems guys want to get back home as soon as they can because they know they're in deep trouble. so it's now decision time and with nothing more than the gut feeling make the decision to swing the mission around, around the moon rather than come around front. so this then puts us on the trajectory path that we got to start very rapidly coming up with answers for. we talk briefly to the crew. don't have much time to say why we're doing this and they're willing to follow whatever direction we're going to give them at this time. in the meantime, we've now got the crew moving over to the lunar module, starting the power-up process. glen's team has finally come up to speed to the point where we can hand over to them. my job now as the crisis team is to get off shift and come up with some kind of game plan from here on out. as soon as glen hits the
console, he's immediately challenged, because our final fuel cell is now dying and he's got 15 minutes to get over to get it powered up. but what's most important he has to transfer the navigation data from the land module computer which is dying over to the lunar module computer. this is all pencil and paper and slide rule. in those days we'd kill for a pocket calculator but they didn't exist. as glen's doing that i'm walking downstairs trying to figure out which direction to go. it's obvious whatever we come up has got to -- we're going to have to come up with answer and hours and days what normally takes months and years from a mission planning standpoint. we're going to be outside all known design and test boundaries of the spacecraft. we got to come up with the answers. walk in to this room. my team is down there and it's loaded with my controllers and their back room people. this is a data room. it is a room that is used only when there's trouble and you can
sense trouble in this room. it's got two overhead tv monitors, it's got one small com panel in there but it is just filled with gray government desks around all sides where people can start spreading out their records and going over them. we were in the data room and the orange telemetry records were scattered all over. one of the very difficult problems that we faced was that there was no instantaneous data retrieval in those days. it was literally hours from the time we would request a print-out of the telemetry data until we would see them. so the only records that we had to work with were the ones that were in the recorders themselves and a few of the hard copies we could take and make a copy of the television display, a controller was looking at. so we had these pieces of paper and these controllers had been watching the life's blood drain out of the spacecraft and we
knew there had been some type of explosion, but that was about all there was. so our job was basically to try to figure out what on board the spacecraft was still useable and to come up with a game plan to get them home. by now we had made the decision that we are going to go around the moon and i made sort of a brief opening speech because i had a lot of new players who were starting to show up from the engineering community. we had astronauts who were reporting right on-board. it was obvious that this team was much larger than we really needed at this stage of the game. i needed to get focused upon the most immediate problems. now throughout all of this problem as it was emerging, we kept hearing one voice as we were going through the evacuation into the lunar module and that was tom stafford. and stafford had started telling us about problems that we would have in accomplishing an alignment of our navigation system using the lunar module
optics while the spacecrafts were still docked together. and they kept being insistent in this to the point where this became a principle concern of myself and glen. so with this background piece of information we're now starting to look at can we afford to power down the spacecraft. and get it to the point where it can very easily stretch these batteries. the game plan broke down now into three distinct phases. one is come up with a set of master checklists that we would use to get the spacecraft from where we were around the moon and then back to earth. and i assigned one of my more trusted controllers -- it was arnie aldridge. he had been with us since very